Saturday, August 20, 2016

Gorge and Mountains

July 28 we leave the  Astoria area and get on over to the east side of Portland to spend 4 nights at Ainsworth State Park located in the Columbia River Gorge.  It seems to me that the Columbia River dominates this area like an ocean dominates the coast.  The enormity, strength and impact simply can't be denied.  Ainsworth State Park is located on old Historic Highway 30 which is designated as a Scenic Highway.  Within just a few miles of Ainsworth are 7 highly notable waterfalls. They range in height from approximately 100 feet to 620  feet.  Any one of these, by themselves, would make a worthy destination.  Seven is the mother lode!  The six pictured below are easily accessible.

Probably the most famous, Multnomah Falls (620 ft)

Wahkeena Falls (242 ft)

Bridal Veil Falls (100-160 ft)

Latourell Falls (250 ft)
Horsetail Falls (160 ft)

Etowah Falls (220 ft)

The road to these waterfalls (Historic Rt 30) is a bit of a challenge.  Debbie's research told us that under no circumstances should we be on the road with the camper.  We are soooo grateful for that bit of info. We stayed on Highway 84 to get to the campground.   Later we were on Hwy 30 stopped in traffic.  It seemed so narrow I had my electric powered mirrors folded in. Just to test the space I attempted to fold the mirrors out and they would not extend all the way without hitting a 10 foot retaining wall on the passenger's side.  That's mighty narrow!

Also in the immediate area is the Bonneville Lock and Dam as well as fish hatcheries and a pretty unique road house, The Vista House.

The Vista  House sits high atop a cliff overlooking the gorge.

 In 1917, the Vista House was built to provide travelers with a place to rest and refresh themselves as they made their way down the Gorge   
Without living in the area before and after the building of the dam there's really no way for the casual visitor to truly imagine the impact of the dam.  The taming of the river, power production, fish hatcheries/conservation and the the creation of jobs must have been off the chain (staggering).  The fish hatcheries primarily raise salmon.  But there are some other creatures there worth mentioning.  The have sturgeon.  These jokers can be 10 feet long and  weigh up to 400 pounds.

Meet Herman the Sturgeon, 425 pounds and around 70 yrs old

Then there are the Lamprey Mouth fish.  These suckers, and they are sure enough suckers, are like prehistoric ugly.  They're long snake like fellows with this grisly round mouth that attaches itself to other fish and over time suck the fluids out of the host fish until death. Too nasty!


About 70 miles from Ainsworth is Mt Hood.  How's this - it's a big mountain!  Snow capped and beautiful.

Our vantage point was the Historic Timberline Lodge .

Built by the WPA in the 30's, the building, particularly the interior is a masterpiece.  The name sums up the style of construction.  We've visited many lodges, particularly those in the national parks built by the railroads, but this is wildly impressive.  Look at the gigantic timbers and proportionally matching hardware/strapping.

Way cool.

So 3 of our 4 days we visited mountains, waterfalls, the dam, hatcheries and the Vista House.  One day we left our little haven in the enormous gorge and went to Portland.  The plan was to ride a narrated hop on hop off tour bus.  We did.  We've done this numerous times in other cities.   It's always work out well. This experience was HORRIBLE.  I won't wear you out with my whining but we felt fully justified in requesting a full $62 refund which they willingly granted.  Then we thought we'd just wander around some on our own.  We did find our way to the Powell City of Books store which is multi-floored and covers a city block.  It claims to be the largest bookstore in the WORLD with approximately one million books.   Hard to imagine in our rapidly growing paperless society.

Other then that small success, we just kind of  stumbled around aimlessly.  Our urban skills are apparently quite weak.  So we eventually found our way on to a city bus and took a ride to Washington Park to enjoy the rose garden.

The rose garden includes more than 10,000 plantings of over 500 varieties
The day was not as smooth sailing as we would have like but hardly can we complain!  

Finally, we leave Oregon!  No, really, we have developed a feverish love affair with the state of Oregon and will look forward to returning.  Our first stop in Washington is Silver Lake.  We're here to see Mt St. Helens.  After visiting 2 fantastic visitor centers,  a wonderful learning center, and spending hours gawking I realize there is no way for me to adequately convey the enormity, the  power and the destruction caused by the volcano.  For example: as the mountain was preparing to blow,  the professional predictions were that the blast zone would cover about 25 square miles.  It covered about 230 square miles.  The power was something equivalent to 400 atomic bombs.  150 foot trees, 17 miles away, were instantly toppled.  Downstream from the mountain communities were leveled by mudslides and flooding rivers.  The damage was endless.  Debbie and I both lived on the east coast 17 May 1980 (the day of the eruption).  We both acknowledge that we knew it occurred but didn't have any appreciation for the proportion of the event.  My guess is that is not true for people residing in the Northwest at that time.  So I'll say no more.  We have some pictures.

Mt. St. Helens before eruption

Mt. St. Helens today

The hundreds of square miles of forests desstoyed by the eruption have come back 

At the risk of being redundant, I encourage you to visit Mt St. Helens if you have not previously had that opportunity.  Class dismissed.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

More Oregon Coast

July 11 through July 20  were action packed.  We cruised the coast and sampled some cheese.  The End! That really does sum up that period of time but I'll try to add some details.

So we we left Umpqua Lighthouse State Park and moved on to Devils Lake State Recreation Area in Lincoln City, Oregon.  For the next week we just kinda ambled up and down the coast.  Going south, one of the highlights, was the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. (thank you Keith and Brenda). It was outstanding! The area includes a lighthouse,

At 93 feet, this is the tallest lighthouse in Oregon
harbor seals,

many birds,

beautiful coast with lots of lava (it's not hot anymore),

and colorful tide pools.

Giant green anemones
Orange sea stars
We spent much of a day roaming the beach areas, taking pictures and driving/walking the park.

We also enjoyed a joyful morning at a great little harbor town, Depoe Bay.  It markets itself as the "Whale Watching Capitol of the Oregon Coast" and  as having "The Smallest Natural Navigable Harbor in the World". Pretty good for a town that only has about 1,400 people. We didn't see any whales there, but as advertised, the harbor was very small.

What we really enjoyed here was our purchase of a fresh baked Croinut (Croisant-Donut), 3 bags of locally produced caramel corn, and the MOST BEAUTIFUL dinner plate sized apple fritter.  We know how to party!

On another day we did again enjoy a whale, this time at Cape Foulweather.

Quite the view as well!

In Lincoln City we went to a sizable farmers market within walking distance of our campground (bought apricots, blueberries and raspberries), cruised a local, volunteer only operated garden and spent an afternoon at an outlet mall (Debbie scored big).

This last bit will likely only make sense to those people who actually know our dogs.  Bailey, our big headed, bighearted, scared of everything girl pulled quite a stunt.  One evening we were walking the whole family and our route  took us across a nature trail boardwalk, elevated about 3 feet off the ground.  No railing. People approached.  From Bailey's point of view, ALL unknown people are a threat.  So she did what comes natural to her, she simply backed up in a hurry.....right into thin air and off the boardwalk.  She wasn't hurt. I jumped off the boardwalk, cradled her until the people past then lifted her back onto the boardwalk.  Parenting is so demanding!

That's a wrap on our week at Devils Lake.  We then moved on to Cape Lookout State Park which is just south of Tillamook, Oregon, home of Tillamook Cheese. So we took a self-guided tour of the factory and saw some of the cheese making process.

That was interesting.  And we sampled cheese.  I'm sure there's a limit, but it would appear you could eat cheese all day.  We didn't but we had our fill. It was good.

July 19 we visited sights north of Cape Lookout State Park to include a stop at the Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint and Lighthouse.  There we found we'd been duped.  More likely we misunderstood.  Back at Umpqua we thought we'd seen the only lighthouse with a  red and white lens. Not true. The lighthouse at Cape Meares has a similar red and white lens. Earlier we showed you the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. Cape Meares is the shortest.  It  only stands 38 feet high.

One day we hiked about 5 miles (rt) to the point of Cape Lookout.  The hike included some dramatic drop offs

 and mighty poor footing,

That's the trail????
 but what a fantastic view!

Another beautiful day.

Also while at Cape Lookout we'd make the 100 yard hike to the beach each evening to catch the sunset.

Commentary:  We are genuinely considering a modest  summer home along the Oregon coast.  It may not happen but it might in a few years.  So we are steadily assessing weather, real estate, weather, local activities/natural attractions, weather, traffic and yes, weather.   Since leaving Umpqua Lighthouse State Park and moving up the coast we have come to recognize that they are FAR more people in these central to northern areas we're  visiting.  Additionally, these areas seem far more touristy coupled with way too much traffic.  I'm guessing much of this congestion has to do with the proximity to Portland. (I'm now an Oregon expert......not)  So my point.  Even though we're greatly enjoying these areas we are largely ruling them out for home buying considerations.

July 21 we moved on to Fort Stevens State Park for a week's stay.  The place is huge.  There are over 500 sites when you combine RV, tents, yurts and cabins. There's hiking trails, bike trails, a sizable lake, lots of military stuff and even a beach with a shipwreck (what's left of it anyway).  The "fort" includes two separate fortified locations dating from the Civil War through WII.  Fort Stevens was actually shelled by a Japanese sub during WWII.  There are plenty of people but it doesn't seem crowded. There's plenty of room for everyone.  Speaking of room, hopefully the picture of our site reveals our own private space.

Fort Stevens is located adjacent to Warrenton, OR.  Population is only about 5000. They have a Costco (lets have a Hoorah Tom),  Home Depot and a Fred Meyer about the size of Disney World.  Go figure!  I also got a good haircut there (oh yes and new windshield wiper blades).  I know, this is interesting stuff.  I'm not very particular about haircuts but I think the last lady that cut my hair graduated from cosmetology school about 20 minutes before I arrived.

Saturday morning, July 23, we drove to Cannon Beach.  It's like we've never traveled. Cannon Beach is a beautiful, high dollar location but I believe nearly every person from Portland was driving into town. WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE and I'm convinced nowhere to park.  You think maybe we should have anticipated the weekend crowd?  I do!  We didn't get out of the truck. We simply drove back to Warrenton and went to Fort Clatsop, which was the 1805 winter home for Lewis and Clark.  There's a nice visitor center, an OK replica of their fort (I believe it's the history that's important)

 and some nice walking trails along the Lewis and Clark River.

Sunday we eventually moseyed into nearby Astoria, OR. This is a lovely waterfront town with a dynamic history related to the fishing, timber and shipping industries. We got there in late afternoon knowing we'd return for another visit.  We walked a little then got on a $1 trolley for a 4 mile (rt) narrated ride along the waterfront.  So very nice and peaked our interest greatly about Astoria.

Monday we give the Cannon Beach area another try.  Much better. It's the most vacation housing packed area we've been in along the coast but that's not surprising.  It is a beautiful setting!

235 foot Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
Another of my profound observations:  The northern Oregon beaches include vast amounts of semi-white sandy beaches in marvelous settings.  But almost no one is ever any more then ankle deep in the water.  It's a smidgen cold.

South of Cannon is a robust little setting at Hug Point State Recreation Site. Intriguing coastline with deep sea caves, tidepools and drama. Yeah!

North of Cannon we stop at Ecola State Park.  A tricky little drive in but this place is way up on a dramatic bluff with more of those dog gone spectacular views.

Our final stop that day, was at Seaside, another cute beach town known for its 1.5 mile "Promenade" by the sea,

and for being the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Nice day.

Tuesday we ventured across the massive Columbia River, and it is OMG massive, to Fort Disappointment State Park in Washington.  They have a Lewis and Clark interpretive center.  So here's the deal. If you entered the interpretive center knowing little about Lewis and Clark, you could depart with an impressively full understanding of their truly death defying expedition!!!  I don't know when I've enjoyed a more comprehensive presentation.  I won't attempt to walk you thru it (aren't you glad?) but if you have an opportunity and an interest put it on your list of things to see in the PNW.

July 27 we returned to Astoria specifically to do the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  Now I have to one up the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  This museum was the MOST enjoyable museum I've ever visited.  We were there for hours and we shall return.  First, it's enormous! It addresses, I believe, everything related to the Columbia River including fishing, canneries, the Coast Guard,

No we didn't hold the camera crooked. 
navigating the river, harbor pilots, WWII, Father Kino (we're thinking of you Craig!),

and one of the Oregon coast's obsessions, tsunamis.  There were endless static displays but what really brought the whole presentation to life were the many many large monitors with live footage of the respective subject.  We even watched (for an additional $5 each) a 3D movie about penguins.

Duane sporting those 3D glasses

Really a fulfilling experience.  We concluded the day with some "world famous" fish and chips made with tuna. Way Yummy!

Update:  I have mentioned the possibility of future RV volunteering.  Our last evening at Fort Stevens we decided the Astoria area would be a great location to stay for an extended period of time.  So, the next morning before we departed, I located the Volunteer Coordinator for the Fort Stevens State Park and secured us a volunteer job for June and July, 2017.  Five nights a week for 4 hours, we will be driving around the campground in a "gator" sort of vehicle selling firewood.  We're thinking this is a great deal.  Quite frankly, we're going to work hard at augmenting that job with some other volunteer jobs for next summer. We're hopeful!

OK, I'm done for now.  Yes, I realize that was a little more than we ate cheese and cruised the coast.